Largest Overseas Military Commissary Opens On Camp Humphreys

For soldiers stationed at Camp Humphreys they now have the honor of shopping at the US military’s largest overseas commissary:

The U.S. military’s largest overseas commissary officially opened for business Wednesday at the Eighth Army’s new home on the Korean Peninsula.

The $15.1 million, 89,491-square-foot store is four and a half times the size of Camp Humphreys’ old commissary, which had reached its limit in supporting a population that has ballooned from 7,000 to 26,000 and will soon peak to more than 40,000.

“This is the best commissary I’ve ever seen and I’ve been around for a long time,” Eighth Army commander Lt. Gen. Michael Bills said during a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Wednesday. “This is a work of art.”

As shoppers checked out the store for the first time, a taekwondo demonstration team kicked wooden planks in front of stacks of pudding boxes and South Korean girls in traditional dress danced in the aisles.  [Stars and Stripes]

You can read more at the link.

Former Senior USFK Advisor Stephen Bradner Remembered

Here is an interesting read about Stephen Bradner the former advisor to 14 different USFK commanders.  He retired from his position in 2013 and unfortunately passed away last month at age 86:

The late Stephen Bradner, with his wife Shin-ja. Photo: Courtesy Andrew Bradner

Bradner returned to the US in 1961 to earn a Harvard master’s degree in Asian Studies. He returned to Korea in 1964 to begin a career of nearly 50 years as a civilian employee of the US government. Starting as an intelligence analyst for the US Army, Bradner worked his way up until in 1973 he became deputy special advisor to the US Army 4-star general in command of both UN Command and US Forces in Korea.

As Michael Breen, author of “The New Koreans” later recalled, “When I first met Steve back around 1986, I showed his business card to a politician friend who was running [then-opposition leader] Kim Dae-jung’s camp. He got quite excited, and put on a whispered voice, although there was no need to, and said, ‘He is the most powerful man in Korea!’”  [Asia Times]

You can read more at the link.

Korean Man Successfully Breaches Security at Camp Humphreys Three Times

This is not good that someone was able to breach security at Camp Humphreys not once, but three times:

U.S. Forces Korea released a statement Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2017, saying that a man had recently breached security at Camp Humphreys three times in a matter of days. STARS AND STRIPES

The top U.S. commander in South Korea criticized the response to a breach of a gate at Camp Humphreys after a South Korean man managed to gain unauthorized entry to the base three times.

The man drove through the main gate at the sprawling base south of Seoul at 4:20 a.m. Saturday but was detained by military police about 10 minutes later and handed over to South Korean officers.

Public affairs officials initially didn’t mention that it had happened before. However, U.S. Forces Korea put out a statement Tuesday saying the man had breached security for the third time in a matter of days but “was successfully interdicted each time by Camp Humphreys authorities without incident or injury.”

Gen. Vincent Brooks expressed concern about how the intrusions had been handled and called for vigilance about force protection on U.S. installations peninsula-wide.  [Stars & Stripes]

You can read more at the link, but the man who breached security supposedly has mental problems.

8th Army Commander Apologizes for .50 Cal Rounds Found Outside Rodriguez Range

Here is the latest complaints from residents who live outside of Rodriguez Range that the 8th Army commander had to apologize for:

A pair of M1A2 Abrams tanks from Company A, 1st Battalion, 8th Infantry Regiment train at Rodriguez Live Fire Range, South Korea, Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2017. MARCUS FICHTL/STARS AND STRIPES

A top U.S. commander has apologized to a South Korean mayor for stray ammunition rounds found outside a sprawling training complex near the tense frontier that divides the peninsula.

Lt. Gen. Michael Bills, the Eighth Army’s new commander, made the comments Thursday during an office call with the mayor of Pocheon, the area that is home to Rodriguez Live Fire Range.

“During the meeting he apologized for the Jan. 3 incident that resulted in several ammunition rounds being found in a [South Korean army] motorpool” near the U.S. complex, the Eighth Army public affairs office told Stars and Stripes Friday in an email.

“He reinforced that the safety of the citizens of our host nation is a top priority,” it added.

More than 10 .50-caliber rounds were discovered at the South Korean base, weeks after the U.S. command hosted a town-hall meeting in Pocheon to address public outrage after a bullet from the range was found inside a local home in November.  [Stars & Stripes]

You can read more at the link, but from the article it is unclear if these were just stray rounds accidentally left on the ROK base or actual fired rounds.  If these were just stray rounds accidentally left in the ROK base I don’t see what the residents are complaining about since it is not a danger to them?

US Army Secretary Meets with Camp Humphreys Personnel and Families

Here is what the US Army Secretary Dr. Mark Esper had to say to say recently during a visit to Camp Humphreys:

Secretary of the Army Mark Esper takes part in a town-hall meeting at Camp Humphreys, South Korea, Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2018. MARCUS FICHTL/STARS AND STRIPES

Soldiers won’t have to move as often, spouses will find it easier to get jobs and there will be access to cheaper produce if the new Army secretary has his way.

Secretary of the Army Mark Esper addressed these issues with soldiers, civilians and family members during a town hall meeting this week at the 8th Army’s new headquarters south of Seoul.

Esper — a Gulf War veteran and former Raytheon lobbyist who took the Army’s top job in November — said he hopes to give troops the choice of staying longer at duty stations.  [Stars & Stripes]

You can read more at the link, but one of the ideas being looked in regards to lower produce costs on post is to have local Korean farmers open up their own food stalls on Camp Humphreys.

Picture of the Day: Outgoing US Naval Commander In Korea Receives Medal

Outgoing U.S. naval commander awarded S. Korean medal

Adm. Um Hyun-seong (R), South Korea’s chief of naval operations, poses for a photo with Rear Adm. Brad Cooper, the outgoing commander of the U.S. Naval Forces Korea, after giving Cooper a medal at a ceremony in Seoul on Jan. 9, 2018, in this photo released by the Navy. Cooper was given the Cheonsu Medal, the third-highest honor in the five-tier Order of National Security Merit, in recognition of his contribution to the alliance between the two countries. (Yonhap)

Picture of the Day: Eighth Army Change of Command

Change of command at U.S. 8th Army

Lt. Gen. Michael Bills (L), the new commander of the U.S. Eighth Army, receives the Eighth Army flag from his predecessor Lt. Gen. Thomas Vandal during a ceremony at Camp Humphreys in Pyeongtaek, south of Seoul, on Jan. 5, 2018, to mark his inauguration and his predecessor’s departure. (Pool photo) (Yonhap)

USFK Commander Stresses Regional Unity to Address North Korea

Here is what the USFK commander General Brooks had to say about North Korea’s recent overtures:

Gen. Vincent K. Brooks, commander of the U.S. Forces Korea (USFK), speaks in a lecture at Seoul Cyber University on Jan. 4, 2018. (Yonhap)

The commanding general of the U.S. Forces Korea (USFK) on Thursday stressed the importance of combat readiness and unity among regional powers to cope with North Korea’s recent peace offensive.

“We can be generally pleased by the recent overtures that happened. But we must keep our expectations at the appropriate level,” Gen. Vincent K. Brooks, who leads the 28,500-strong U.S. Forces Korea (USFK), said at a lecture in Seoul.

He was referring to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s New Year’s Day statement that his country is willing to join the Winter Olympics that will open in the South Korean town of PyeongChang next month. He proposed immediate inter-Korean dialogue to discuss the issue.

In a follow-up move, the two Koreas reconnected a cross-border communication channel Wednesday, two years after it was severed, and are preparing to hold high-level talks.

It represents Pyongyang’s “sincere” pursuit of reconciliation, but it may be in line with its typical strategy to keep apart five countries — South Korea, the U.S., China, Japan and Russia — aimed at weakening their power against the regime trying to win the status of a “nuclear capable” nation.

“We can’t ignore that reality,” the command emphasized during the session at Seoul Cyber University, organized by the National Unification Advisory Council, a presidential consultative body mainly on long-term inter-Korean ties.

In the face of the North’s peace gesture, he said, it’s important for South Korea and the U.S. to maintain an “ironclad and razor sharp” alliance and joint combat readiness in the event that it leads to a “negative outcome, not a positive outcome.”

He likened North Korea to the center of a palm and the five regional powers to five fingers, showing his right hand.

The North wants these five fingers to be separated but they should operate in “harmony and closely connected to one another” as a fist to create necessary pressure to cause a change in its course, he added. [Yonhap]

You can read more at the link, but I think the problem with General Brooks analogy is that two of the fingers have no intention of being part of the fist, Russia and China.  It is arguable they share the same strategic objective of the Kim regime to separate the US from the ROK.

US and ROK Marines Frolic in the Snow at Winter Olympic Site

Only in Korea does the holiday season mean that once again we get to see the annual pictures of half naked Marines frolicking in the snow:

U.S. and South Korean Marines get airborne during a short workout at Pyeongchang, South Korea, Tuesday, Dec. 19, 2017. MARCUS FICHTL/STARS AND STRIPES

About 400 U.S. and South Korean Marines took a break from honing their winter-warfare skills Tuesday for some friendly competition in the city that will host the upcoming Winter Olympics.

After doffing their shirts and yelling half-naked in the snow, the allies teamed up to battle each other in chicken fights, relay races and a free-for-all wrestling match.

It was a bit of levity to wrap up a tense year on the Korean Peninsula that saw more than 20 North Korean ballistic-missile tests, two underground nuclear blasts and an ongoing bitter war of words between Washington and Pyongyang.  [Stars & Stripes]

You can read more at the link.